A friend of mine is attending the London Book Fair and enjoying literary meetings and cherry blossom in the park. (No – I’m not green with envy… that’s only a bit of mould!) However, one of the things she is not enjoying is British food. Although, what exactly is wrong with eating chips in a bread roll or potatoes with pizza, I’ll never know!
Actually, it is a myth that all British cuisine is bad, but this story is not the one that explodes the myth. Quite the opposite. There were explosions – nasty ones, but not of the myth-busting variety.
Have I whetted your appetite?
A couple of years ago, when we were over in England visiting our families, we suffered at the hands of motorway stops and fifth-rate restaurants at tourist sites. Remember that we are hopeless cooks, so that anything below our standard really is low!
Anyway, towards the end of our stay, we went to M & S (an upmarket high street store called Marks & Spencers) to stock up on essentials like underwear and books for the kids. While we were there, we decided to have a bite to eat at their newly-renovated and very expensive in-store café. It was coffee and cake all round except for Sir Pe, who suddenly developed a craving for a scone with jam and clotted cream.
Traditionally, the scone is served warm and is light and fluffy inside with jam and cream that melts in the mouth and over your clothes. The one that Sir Pe took out of the chilling cabinet was cold and hard. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this was the scone David used to knock Goliath out with.
Sir Pe politely asked for a fresh scone. Preferably one that would allow him to keep his teeth in his mouth after eating it. The serving lady gave him another scone that was just as hard. He then asked her for a scone that had been baked that day.
“They are all baked right here on the premises.”
“OK. Can you warm this up please so that it is a little softer?”
“Sorry! We only have industrial ovens that can’t warm up food. Anyway, this is what scones are supposed to be like.”
That’s when it happened: the stretching of patience as taut as the nerves of a terrified patient at the dentist; the twang of nerves unravelling like knicker elastic; the sound of tempers exploding.
“What do I have to do to get some decent food in this [swear word deleted] country? Can’t I even get a fresh scone?” he shouted. Loudly. So that even the several hundred old dears in the queue behind us could hear us without having to switch on their hearing aids.
There is nothing a store likes less than an irritated customer telling everyone what bad food it serves.
The manager emerged swiftly. Took away the offending scones. And brought back a freshly-baked warm one.
What’s the moral of this story? If you want some decent food in England, you’ll have to shout louder than everyone else!